Equity Research’s Talent Problem
New data highlights the persistent lack of diversity among sell-side research analysts.
Equity research, like most of finance, has historically struggled to attract and retain women and people of color. A new study by buy-side recruiting firm Odyssey Search Partners offers a look at the current state of diversity in sell-side research.
Among respondents to the survey, which included mainly U.S. analysts across research boutiques and major banks, just 14 percent reported that they were female, versus 79 percent who identified as male (the remainder choosing “prefer not to say/other”).
The survey also found that women held a smaller proportion of senior roles, with only 12 percent of lead analysts identifying as female. The lack of women in these higher paying jobs was a big driver in female analysts making less money overall, with the Odyssey report showing a smaller salary gap for junior lead and support roles.
The responses highlight a gender imbalance in the equity research industry that has changed little over the last decade. For example, Institutional Investor’s 2018 analysis of analysts named to the All-America Research Team found that women consistently held between nine percent and 13 percent of first, second, and third team positions between 2009 and 2018.
[II Deep Dive: Where Are the Women on the All-America Research Team?]
According to Odyssey managing partner Anthony Keizner, the representation of women in equity research is “no poorer” than in private equity or the hedge fund industry. Odyssey’s 2020 surveys of those sectors found that women held 13 percent of investment roles in private equity, and 11 percent at hedge funds.
Likewise, the proportion of sell-side analysts identifying as Black or Latinx/Hispanic — 5 percent — mirrored the numbers on buy-side investment teams, Keizner said.
While the majority of equity analyst respondents reported that they were white/Caucasian, Odyssey’s head of diversity and inclusion Jayson Schmitt said that it was “encouraging to see” that 39 percent identified as a different ethnic group. This included 16 percent who answered “prefer not to say/other” — a group which Schmitt suggested may include people with multiethnic backgrounds.
In addition to gender and ethnicity, respondents were also asked about sexual orientation. Eighty-four percent reported that they were heterosexual, while about 2 percent identified as lesbian, gay, bi, or pansexual. Fourteen percent said “prefer not to say/other.”
According to Keizner, investment firms have started to focus more LGBTQ groups and other underrepresented communities in their diversity hiring strategies. “People are defining diversity beyond gender, broadening to other underrepresented groups,” he said. “That absolutely includes race and ethnicity but also LGBTQ and veteran status.”
The diversity requirements buy-side firms give to search firms like Odyssey have also evolved, Keizner added. “Whereas before it would be a nice to have, it’s now become a need to have,” he said. “No longer is the request, ‘Please make best efforts to get a balanced slate.’ It’s, ‘We want to see X number of people or it will be difficult for us to make a hire.’”